The Americas

"Are you published yet?" and other thoughts on success in the writing profession

A former student messaged me the other day asking: “Is your book out in the market yet?”

I last saw this student in early June, and yes, part of my explanation for leaving my teaching job was wanting to get my manuscript published. By then, I was carrying around a three-ring binder of what appeared to be a complete and printed manuscript (is any manuscript ever complete?). I can imagine some students thought I was a hop, skip, and jump away from the digital shelves of Amazon.

That dear student is not the only one who has asked me if bookstores now carry my narrative from Fiji, just two months after they watched me submit a second draft for grad school.

IMG_0077.PNG

I interpret these as supportive and encouraging questions—from people who have been cheering me on through the gestation of this book. But these questions also relate to the self-study of the publishing world that has consumed the “gap year” I just began, an industry and a process that surprises me regularly in its opacity and complexity.

It’s as if I spent years learning to make cheese, and now that I’ve almost decided on my formula, I must learn about an entire industry that produces, packages, markets, and delivers my beloved cheese to consumers. And by “learn” I mean ask others who’ve done it before, scour the internet for sources, for people who can help me navigate this process. Because the process is not clear and not taught to writers.

The barrier of entry for hopeful writers requires knowledge, personal connections, time, and money. It appears, most unfortunately, that entry can also be afforded to some demographics over others, simply because publishing professionals are commonly white females. I doubt any two writers’ paths toward this knowledge are the same.

Most of us are outsiders looking in on the publishing industry. Perhaps you’re a reader, maybe you fancy yourself a potential writer, or you love a good bookstore for its free wifi and coffee shop vibes. I dare say, for most of us, the process of getting a book published appears simultaneously straightforward and mysterious. Ba da bing ba da boom...somehow.

These questions about my own book remind me of one of my own questions I still regret asking at the start of my MFAW. “What happens to our theses when we finish? Do they get published?” I was 30 years-old. I thought the fruit of my grad school labor went straight into the book machine after graduation. Over time I think I managed to gain back a little respect from that advisor, but on that same day I commenced my education of the publishing industry, mainly in relation to the writer’s experience.

Because, I soon learned, the sole objective of writing is not to be published.

There were many moments while at Goddard when the relationship between writing and publishing was identified to me, made distinct from each other. “Writing and publishing are separate things,” my first advisor mentioned casually in a keynote speech. That simple sentence was epiphanic to me. I scribbled it down on my notepad and reviewed it often to the same effect.

Many of my classmates had already submitted to journals and magazines and contests, all while completing our required work and sometimes holding full-time jobs unrelated to their writing lives. It was an outlet they pursued in overtime hours, often with little external or material compensation for days of hard work but a byline. Goddard College brought literary agents and publishing representatives to residency, to let us peek behind the curtain and glimpse how that publishing world worked. And they always made it sound like a foreign country with its own system of government and unique language you’re expected to learn on your own before you go. The manuscript, a hard-earned passport. The proposal, a complicated visa.

I could go on. I love a good analogy.

I would sit in those lectures and wonder: Does everyone else know there are five main publishing houses in America? Was I supposed to as an MFAW candidate? Is everyone else clear on the options of 1.) literary agents → editors → publishing houses or 2.) self-representation → editors → publishing houses or 3.) skipping the refinement process by professionals to self-publish at your own expense? How are we supposed to learn in advance of trial and error that book proposals are what they are, that they require chapter breakdowns and beta reader feedback and genre/demographic specification and competitive title analyses?

I continue to wonder today… How did people ever get books published before the internet? Am I such a millenial for asking that question?

IMG_0076.PNG

It’s taken me the last two and a half years to better understand not just that publishing operates the way it does (and I’m still learning) but that publishing should not to be the destination. As writers, so much could be lost or overshadowed if getting published becomes the focal point of one’s tunnel vision. For both writers and those who know and love writers, publishing should not be considered the mark of success of a writer.

I’ve learned that publishing doesn’t pay much, unless your last name is King or Rowling or Cussler. It seems publishing is the commodification of writing, the business side of a creative format, inherently political, in addition to the major way in which writers can make a desired impact on their readers.

And for publishing professionals, books are investments, books are gambles.

As a writer, I find gratification in using words to assemble something that didn’t exist before. And when that assemblage feels like an apt translation of the blips and swirls in my mind, I am satiated as if departing a Michelin-starred restaurant.

And those blips and swirls don't feel trivial. They tend to focus on the things that keep me up at night. Getting them on paper is a success in and of itself.

And as a writer, I have to engage in trickery of the mind in order to produce the story in need of coming out, though it is insistent. It’s more akin to meditation or shedding the ego or staring into the gut of a flame to find its deep, dark core. Publishing is not the carrot at the end of that stick. It’s getting the story right, even though it’s rightness is as specific and elusive as a once-vivid dream.

“Success” can be seen from many perspectives: a writer’s, their readers, anyone invested in the numbers their writing generates (page views, clicks, followers, products sold, dollars earned), former teachers, fellow writers, family members and friends. I guess I’m trying to maintain focus on the only perspective that should matter to me.

IMG_0078.PNG

As adults, we don’t often receive the constant validation that makes us feel confident we’re doing good work. Not like we used to as students with grades or percentages (my old students used to lament this silver lining from quantitative assessment, much to my surprise). Often that validation for adults comes in the form of job promotions, pay raises, awards (which could vary greatly depending on your profession). But do these always or often commend the work we are most proud of? Are third party “carrots” more effective than the ones we can create for ourselves?

In this “gap year” of mine, in which I do hope to finish my manuscript, find a literary agent, and make progress toward publishing, I also hope I can maintain a clarity of purpose. To define success in my own terms, through the satisfaction of making words mean something worth saying, worth changing, worth being.

Yes, a simple request for a status update sparks all this inside me every time. Feel free to ask...I appreciate the interest and support :)

But no, I haven’t been published yet, even though every Friday is “Submission Day!” and I have yet to send one query.

No, I haven’t gotten my book published yet because I don’t have an agent.

And no agent, sadly, because I’m deep in the weeds with a machete, shaving down my manuscript to its core. And I’m just starting to get the hang of this world.

110,745 kilometers later: an update on Nomadderwhere

110,745 kilometers later: an update on Nomadderwhere

I'm watching the Vancouver Marathon from my apartment window and giggling as seagulls drift by at eye-level. Canada represents my final destination of this academic year, and though it was an exciting year and an important one for my own growth, I am glad it's behind me.

Traveling with a math expert this year introduced me to the beauty of slow data. With every car ride or room change, she plugged miles traversed or beds switched into a spreadsheet. By the end of 220 days "on the road," she presented to us the impressive numbers of our #cdtravels:

  • 110,745 kilometers of transit = 2.76 times around the world
  • Total hours on planes, trains & automobiles (not layovers or wait time): 246 hours / 6 work weeks
  • 50 beds roughly, averaging 4.4 nights per bed

If you're wondering why I spent the last year making an epic carbon footprint (not proud of that), take a peek at the TGS Changemaker Program and read my post on this curriculum development mission. If you're not sure how I went from travel media to writing curriculum documents for a high school, I understand your confusion. It surprised me, too. Here's something on my evolution.

Last year at this time, I was living in Florence, Italy with THINK Global School, plugging away at graduate school and enjoying as stable a lifestyle as I've achieved in the last decade. Between then and now, I changed jobs, visited ten countries, and wrote two years of projects with three colleagues.

Here's what it was like...

Read More

A little valentine for my dear, sweet Buenos Aires

A little valentine for my dear, sweet Buenos Aires

Not only was this the longest time I've lived in an international city, it also happened to be a culture I fully embraced. Our impending departure pricked me in the last week, drawing up thick sentiment I could only process through creation. What could I make that would facilitate a meditation on a city that showed me a wonderful time?

Read More

Have you heard about this global school of mine?

Have you heard about this global school of mine?

I like telling stories around the world: in written form, through snazzy visuals, and from both experiential and academic perspectives. I would do this of my own volition (ahem, Nomadderwhere), but thankfully my job allows me to do this for pay every day. From time to time though, I also make marketing videos to give more context of this visionary establishment that houses such endeavors. Here are the latest ones of note.

Read More

Photoblog: Sundays in Buenos Aires make the whole week

Photoblog: Sundays in Buenos Aires make the whole week

For over a month, I've been sinking my claws into Buenos Aires, Argentina. Within the first two weeks, I found an apartment with a new roommate/co-worker in the beautifully-located barrio called Recoleta. Its coordinates in the city as well as decor and baller terrace(s) cause me to internally chant: I'm not worthy!

Read More

Adios, America. It's time for new places and fresh air.

Adios, America. It's time for new places and fresh air.

It's time to navigate away from Indiana again. The school year is starting, and I'm about to move to a country I've never visited. Come Tuesday, I will have some new students, new co-workers, a new home with someone else's furniture, and a new culture to study...thankfully in a language I'm already comfortable with. Last year's school locations of Ecuador, Thailand, and Germany look to be replaced by some diverse locales, all brought to you by the letter "B".

Read More

Domestic deficiencies and my learning curve post-Ecuador

Living in one place for a couple months - regardless of one's experience - inevitably causes nostalgia upon leaving and for a succeeding period of time. If it was a bad time, the pleasant memories override the bad, and if it was a good time, as was Ecuador, everything habitual and endearing continues to perpetuate once home again. In my case, the lingering reflexes from previous travels usually mess me up in Indiana - sometimes big time. I tend to call these the ironies of my lifestyle, but lately I feel it's more a deficiency in domestic knowledge, exacerbated by my fondness for the last three months of international living.

I can't live up to familial expectations

 Max after baptism, family

Max after baptism, family

Once I knew my work dates for December, my sister-in-law planned her son's baptism around my schedule - to make sure I could definitely attend. And there I was on the morning of his christening, coffee in hand doing the two-step warm-up dance outside in tights, watching my friend's husband jump my borrowed car's battery where it sat 90 miles from the church. It's not too hard to remember to turn the headlights off in the pitch black of night the evening prior, but that's assuming one gets those pangs of common sense.

...because I'm used to: cheap taxis and close proximity

When my school's transportation or my feet couldn't take me where I needed to be, I could stand on a curb in the historic center and hail a yellow car that never cost more than $5, even for a twenty minute trip. Distances traveled - in this country smaller than Nevada - were relatively miniscule compared my US of A expectations.

In my breaths between trips, I rely on my wheeling-and-dealing car salesman of a brother to have a means of getting around. Taxis in Indiana are as scattered as stars with meters that run like Michael Johnson. Not efficient, easy, or happening.

I've got plumbing confusion.

Cuenca resembles an historic European city with cobblestone streets, cloth napkin lunches, and more ornate churches than there are Sundays in a year. It is a lovely town with enjoyable nightlife and beautiful rivers flanking the walkable center. That's the necessary introduction for my dear American audience that will be disgusted with the necessary toilet paper disposal method: a trash can.

...because I'm used to: weak sauce toilets

The plumbing in Ecuador generally requires an 'exit-stage-left' strategy for used tissue. Not to divulge my rituals behind closed stall doors, but I have yet to not be confused with the protocol since my return. In the same way that I don't remember my current continent when my daily alarm rings, I have to go through a process of remembering where I am and what I'm doing every time nature summons.

The motor skills flop when cooking duty calls.

Whereas my fifteenth year was marked by an obsession with Food Network, today I chop vegetables at the speed and with the delicacy of Remy's first try. I can make a spectacular explosion of coarsely slaughtered salad ingredients, which is actually my most coveted meal when abroad, but anything involving even marginal levels of calculation and finesse isn't possible for at least a month post-trip.

I've actually got a known track record with the Indianapolis Fire Department with this issue.

...because I'm used to: $3.50 lunch specials and constant group meals

Near the end of Cuenca, I realized I hadn't cooked for myself - not a saucepan touched - in months. It was more cost-effective and timely to eat at a nearby restaurant with wifi than it was to assemble something palatable in the hotel's kitchen. I also felt like a bothersome house guest when I tried. And eating with the students meant a pre-set menu consisting of meat and potatoes, sandwiched by a creamy soup and a fruit platter curtain call.

I'm speaking the wrong language.

Ecuador presented me with daily challenges to expand my language skills, much like New York gave me the sensation of world travel the moment I left my apartment. I was able to push beyond my fluency from senior year of high school and regain the abilities swiftly lost with the apprehension of Italian.

...because I'm used to: never being able to communicate with the surrounding majority

This is nothing new. I was saying naka to my mother two months after Fiji - instead of 'thank you' - and even though my recent firings of Spanish have hit some native speakers, I am forgetting how to communicate to people at home in daily, civil settings. I am used to being a fly on the wall and observing life I don't connect with personally. In this environment, I can pop in and pop out; obligation to the place is non-existent.

With every trip abroad, the return home gets easier. I'm hoping these are the remnants of a dying reverse-culture shock trend. It's a plan to tackle one or more of these issues while in Thailand...and again when I return to the great US of A.

Neglect in a time of note-worthy experiences

I call myself a writer, but I haven't written - really written - in two months. Since my last real musing, I traveled to three regions of Haiti, frequented my second Carnival celebration, had a random reunion with a travel friend in the middle of a street parade, hosted my best friend and travel gal for a week in New York City, and traveled across the world to Thailand for production. I should have many a post on my site by now regarding all the previously mentioned events and experiences. Instead, I am a chicken sans head with too many things to say and not enough time to process them. And you know what else is sad? I wrote the previous paragraph in the middle of March. I call this type of article a 'Frankenstein'.

 Frank N. Stein

Frank N. Stein

I've read others discussing this interesting phenomenon - the travel writer's Catch 22 - and I know I've dealt with it using various methods in the past. Even though I've been based out of home between these escapades, there is still the delicate balance between experience and reflection, one that I usually miss due to overindulgence of one.

Sadly, my mind is a sieve. Without documentation and over-processing of real-life experiences, I tend to forget or reconstruct my life. Therefore, the neglect of noting certain meaningful experiences seems dangerous and irresponsible for someone mortal wanting simply to thrive on memories in the end.

Why Write About Travel?

 Writing, Photographing, Filming in the Field

Writing, Photographing, Filming in the Field

It began as a way to inform my family I was still alive. Once they gained this comfort, the detailed accounts were meant to illuminate a black hole on the world map of one's understanding. Soon after, it became a job and then a way of life through which I felt fulfillment. While documentary photo and video work easily allow for simultaneous experience, I write the way the Social Network dudes code: plugged in with total concentration and all-consuming fervor. After the arc of adrenaline subsides in a travel day, it's all I can do to charge up the batteries and coordinate logistics for the next day. Writing in the moment hasn't been a real possibility since my 7-month discovery tour.

Upon returning home, the act of processing begins involuntarily through dreams - brutally honest reactions that make for sturdy foundations later. Of course, errands to the laundromat, outings with friends, job applications, and other life logistics eventually take precedence over mental fermentation and readiness. And so, what's left from a life-changing "away game" is a brain of floating and incomplete thoughts like a bowl of Alpha-bits.

In January, my friend Jazmine departed on a two month journey throughout Southeast Asia. Aside from recommending the occasional splurge during her budget initiative, my one adamant piece of advice was to write. Especially on a whirlwind adventure, sometimes it's only in the observation of a blinking cursor on a word document that we realize the confusion of our interior. And alternately, scribbled sentences on mounting scraps of paper are the necessary mastication of the experiential piece of gum. In my opinion, there's no better way for anyone to savor that flavor, and this isn't just for those who consider themselves capable crafters of written word.

 Alpha-bit cereal

Alpha-bit cereal

The Bottleneck Effect

I'm passionate about writing relevant and satirical travel narratives, and these such stories are exactly what have been lacking in my recent blogging pursuits. Instead, when people inevitably ask about Haiti or Thailand, I have to use words like "amazing" or "incredible," as though that really demystifies the destination for them. Writers should have distinct voices, based on objective truths, unique observation, and subjective viewpoints on humanity. To call Haiti an incredible experience is like saying Mariah Carey is a good singer. Thailand is a beautiful country with kind people. Earth is a planet with land and water. That's all hot air. I'm looking to add insight to the sea of declarative sentences born and syndicated every day.

The goal: document experiences uniquely and dynamically The reality: confusion, sloppy schedules, and a mere 24 hours taunting me in the day The problem: time brings new experiences whether or not I'm ready The solution: force thoughts to make a single file line outward, all with purpose

 bottleneck

bottleneck

Imagine the wiggly line as my pool of thoughts, the fish-eyed text as concepts to ponder, and the bottleneck as my avenues of expression restricted by time, ability, and external factors. This isn't adult swim when the kids are back at school; this is noon at the public watering hole on July 4th. These thoughts aren't conscientious swimmers. They all need to get out of the pool safely or else they start pruning and eventually peeing in this uncertain limbo.

The Token Freudian Analysis

I hope by now the irony of this post has hit you. Am I not still treading water with this time and energy to vocalize the fact that I haven't vocalized my thoughts in a while? Why share this when I could obviously be sharing what I aim to produce? And why has this venue of blogging to the world wide web become so darn important to the sanity of man?

Even though life is a constant linear chain of experiences, the mind doesn't necessarily process them as such. And even though traveling seems like an itinerary of visits, challenges, and conversations, the entire concept of 'travel' is far more existential an arena of thought than it is a modification of geography. If I don't dedicate time and energy to sorting through what transpires in my life - big or small - I run the risk of disconnecting unconscious interpretations of superego standards from conscious actions of the ego. Translate the previous sentence with a couple of Freud's favorites:

Ego: the part of the personality which maintains a balance between our impulses (id) and our conscience (superego)

Unconscious: the area of the psyche where unknown wishes and needs are kept that play a significant role in our conscious behavior

Subconscious: that which exists in the mind but not immediately available to consciousness*

It's like stepping over the question repeatedly, multiple times a day, every day, "What is this life I lead?" Are we - dare I say - robots that power forward with the sequence or humans that react to the varied stimuli we encounter daily, especially on the road. I say leave your robot on the dance floor. Experiences are had to be felt and purposefully utilized to make a person better.

The Selfish Act of Not Sharing

 Mom feeding me the last drops of wine

Mom feeding me the last drops of wine

The liquid inside a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino doesn't motivate or fulfill a person's palate. Once it passes through the aerator and clashes with fresh oxygen, that sweet nectar becomes something of value. A book in Hungarian means nothing to me until it is translated into something Latin-based I can recognize. Unless an experience runs through the necessary steps to become useable to a person, it is a waste, a missed opportunity, a neglected tool for burrowing efficiently and successfully through time. It is only in this translation through the sieve of human standards and emotion that an understanding can pass through the nonconscience to the subconscience to reach the active, living conscience.

In non-Freudian terms, going somewhere or doing something means nothing if you don't understand how it affected you.

So when I say I haven't really written in months, it means I haven't actively processed that which has the great capacity to improve my being, including: • traveling through Haiti's Port-au-Prince, the Central Plateau, and cultural Jacmel. • meeting President-elect Michel Martelly (candidate at the time). • attending my second Carnival celebration in a country pent up after a year of recovery. • randomly running into a woman that saved me years before around the world. • hosting my best travel comrade, Alexis Reller, in New York City. • spending three weeks in Thailand on production for another travel series. • reliving my first third-world solo trip in Vietnam. • finding peace and creativity in Luang Prabang, Laos.

...all experiences that drip with the tantalizing prospect of organic value, not just for me but through the informative and experiential butterfly effect. It's why we read books and talk to our friends. Sharing stories, especially via such a mobile force like the web, makes for an even greater learning experience across international and industry borders. And if we don't analyze why this process isn't happening, it threatens to repeat until we come to.

Action Plan for the Neglected

Thus ends my soliloquy of why I'm thinking too much of how I can't think enough. And of course, one cannot ramble without a conclusive caboose. I plan to revive the elicited emotions from said unprocessed experiences and craft some posts that remain relevant to what's going on today. For instance, May 14th marks the presidential inauguration of Haiti's Michel Martelly, the wake of which provides a perfect moment for reflection of our meeting. Expect 'Lost'-esque flashbacks to experiences in Thailand that dictate my present endeavors. And as always, it's not my intention to provide a static, one-time commentary but instead evoke an elongated discussion through comments beneath. I hope you're on board with that.

Surely there are others that have too much to recall or process and are grappling with this feeling of neglect. What have you neglected to process, and in your opinion, is there only a small window of opportunity for intake?

*Definitions provided by

AllPsych Online

and

Merriam-Webster

Let's Speak Haitian Creole!

My first language post arose from a desire to document and transmit the full experience of being in a relatively unknown culture: tribal Fiji. I didn't expect many people to find such a write-up relevant, but it dawned on me after hundreds of hits that lesser-known languages need some limelight, too. One could travel to Haiti and speak French; there would be virtually no gap in communication. But, I didn't have the luxury of French and instead opted for downloading some free software to learn Haitian Creole. Because I've spent the last eleven years learning languages that pack very few superfluous letters, the concept of learning French and not pronouncing half a word seemed absurdoix. Creole being a mix of many languages, including Arabic, Spanish, Taíno, and some African languages, it reads more phonetically and becomes more accessible than its' base.

Visit Haiti. And when you do, use your Creole. In the meantime, I'm going to attempt to process my four day rare experience through Port-au-Prince, the Central Plateau, and Jacmèl.

Haitian boy in the Central Plateau, in Thomonde
Haitian boy in the Central Plateau, in Thomonde

The Basics

Alo: Hello Bonjou: Good morning Kòman ou ye (pronounced co-mah-oo-ee): How are you? Mwen trè byen, mèsi: I'm fine, thank you. Mwen rele Lindsay: My name is Lindsay. Good evening: Bonswa Eskize mwen: Excuse me/Sorry Mwen regrèt sa: I'm sorry. Wi: Yes Non: No Mèsi: Thank you Tanpri: Please Goodbye: Orevwa

Driving around Haiti
Driving around Haiti

Getting Around

Ou ka ede mwen? Can you help me? Kijan pou mwen ale nan...? How to get to...? Direksyon: direction Mize: museum Taksi: taxi Otèl: hotel Kafe: café Mache (pronounced mah-shay): to walk Mwen ta renmen peye ak kat kredi: I would like to pay with credit card. Ayewopò: airport Estasyon: station Mwen gen kèk kesyon: I have some questions. Rezèvasyon: reservation Mwen pèdi: I am lost. Ki kote li...? Where is...? Mwen bezwen èd: I need help. Non ri a: street name Gichè otomatik: ATM

Man wearing a mask at Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti
Man wearing a mask at Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti

Conversation

Kijan ou rele? What is your name? Ki laj ou? How old are you? Mwen se ameriken: I am American. Mwen ta renmen...: I would like... Ki lè li fè? What time is it?

Playing in the waves on the beach in Jacmel, Haiti
Playing in the waves on the beach in Jacmel, Haiti

Learning While Speaking

Mwen pa konprann: I don't understand. M ap aprann Kreyòl: I'm learning Creole. Pale Angle (pronounced pah-lee ahn-gleh): to speak English Mwen vle aprann Kreyòl: I want to learn Creole. Mwen pa konnen: I don't know. Mwen pa te konnen li: I didn't know that. Sa bon pou konnen: That's good to know. Tradui: to translate Mwen pa ka li Kreyòl: I can't read Creole. Li difisil pou mwen pale Kreyòl: Speaking Creole is difficult for me. Ou trè sèvyab: You are very helpful. Mèsi pou fason ou ede m avèk Kreyòl mwen: Thank you for helping me with my Creole. Kòman yo di...an Kreyòl? How do you say...in Creole? Sa sa vle di...? What does...mean? Mwen ap sonje: I will remember that

Painted numbers on the outside of Edeyo school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Painted numbers on the outside of Edeyo school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Numbers

Youn: one De: two Twa: three Kat: four Senk: five Sis: six Sèt: seven Uit: eight Nèf: nine Dis: ten Onz: eleven

Girl at the blackboard at Edeyo School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Girl at the blackboard at Edeyo School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Time

Jodi a (all 'di's are pronounced tzi): today Demen: tomorrow Ayè: yesterday Midi: noon Lendi: Monday Madi: Tuesday Mèkredi: Wednesday Jedi: Thursday Vandredi: Friday Samdi: Saturday Dimanch: Sunday

The Central Plateau of Haiti
The Central Plateau of Haiti

Develop Vocabulary

Etazini: United States Tanperati: temperature Vyann poul: chicken Pwason: fish Vyann bèf: beef Dlo: water Byè: beer Soulye: shoes Manto: coat Chapo: hat Grangou: hungry Vit: quickly Bra: arm Janm: leg Tèt: head Lajan: money

Practicing my Creole on the beach in Jacmel, Haiti
Practicing my Creole on the beach in Jacmel, Haiti

And once again, you're now as fluent as I am! Doesn't take much. Put your skills to use and visit. It's the best way to learn a new language, and it's something Haiti needs: your presence to develop an honest perspective on a country that is richer than we recognize.

All photos © ProjectExplorer.org, 2011

Piecing Together an Understanding of Haiti Today

Piecing Together an Understanding of Haiti Today

This weekend came and went, and I never left my couch. My camera bag - meticulously packed for three hectic days across three cities - lies useless on the bedroom floor; memory cards untouched and road snacks un-nibbled. For the second time in a row, our assignment in Haiti has been postponed due to civil unrest and political instability. I don't really know what's going on there at the moment, and with the one-track mind of sensationalist mass media focused solely on Egypt (and the Super Bowl, I guess), I'm finding it hard to understand this new situation, which has red alerts and closings already resulting from the anticipated nation-wide chaos.

Read More

Mentally Preparing for Haiti on the Earthquake Anniversary

Mentally Preparing for Haiti on the Earthquake Anniversary

With every assignment, my job is gaining more meaning and thrill, becoming increasing moving and educative. From researching Frida Kahlo to cutting videos on Nelson Mandela, I've been diving further into pivotal, global issues. And though - technically - our upcoming trip to Haiti is a freelance assignment to document a medical non-profit, I'm going in the capacity of a filmmaker and an indirect educator. For the past month, I've been taking in knowledge of old Saint-Domingue like a sponge, and I'm hoping to include you, my ever-enlightening audience, in this pursuit of awareness.

Read More

Photoblog: Final Crew Meal at Mexico City's W Hotel

Flashing back to the June Mexico trip with ProjectExplorer.org, I thought I'd memorialize a fantastic project-closing meal we had at the W Hotel in Mexico City. We relaxed after a hectic day of capturing on film Mexico's complex and difficult history. It was a well-deserved and tasty spread. [All photos were taken by Vijaya Selvaraju.]

 Guerrero Negro Seared Sea Scallops

Guerrero Negro Seared Sea Scallops

Guerrero Negro Seared Sea Scallops

 Handmade Brie Cheese Baguette

Handmade Brie Cheese Baguette

Handmade Brie Cheese Baguette

 Mexican Black Oyster Mushroom Soup

Mexican Black Oyster Mushroom Soup

Mexican Black Oyster Mushroom Soup

 Citric Pesto Crusted Ahi Tuna

Citric Pesto Crusted Ahi Tuna

Citric Pesto Crusted Ahi Tuna

 Coriander & Lemon Marinated Chicken Breast

Coriander & Lemon Marinated Chicken Breast

Coriander & Lemon Marinated Chicken Breast

 Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

 Enjoying Myself

Enjoying Myself

Me Enjoying Myself

 Flourless Chocolate Cake with Ancho Chilli

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Ancho Chilli

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Ancho Chilli

 Not Jack Johnson's Banana Pancake

Not Jack Johnson's Banana Pancake

Not Jack Johnson's Banana Pancake

 Pina Colada Sweet Pineapple and Cardamom Ravioli

Pina Colada Sweet Pineapple and Cardamom Ravioli

Pina Colada Sweet Pineapple and Cardamom Ravioli

Che and Jack Agree. It's All About Movement.

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. -Robert Louis Stevenson

In the last two years, I read two books I found interesting (though not astounding) by two men with fetishes for movement. I found their stories ones I would only enjoy vicariously, but I definitely related to their desires to be on the road. Reading both of these at times I was myself on the move, maybe this is why they resonated.

Today, I wanted to highlight some of of their passages. Please welcome Che Guevara and Jack Kerouac.

Che Guevara on Movement

[The following are excerpts from Che's Motorcycle Diaries.]

It is there, in the final moments, for people whose farthest horizon has always been tomorrow, that one comprehends the profound tragedy circumscribing the life of the proletariat the world over.

Before Ernesto (a.k.a. Che) was conducting guerilla warfare across Latin America, he was motoring across it as a spry 23 year-old with a passion to move. This passion, as I recall reading this on my Big Journey, was the catalyst for his narratives as well as their downfall. While some of his adventures were exciting and exotic, some of his daily jottings were as thrilling as, "We drove all day Tuesday and found a little place connected to a restaurant to crash for the night. The next day we got up and fixed La Poderosa and rode all day until we found another place to sleep." Riveting.

There we understood that our vocation, our true vocation, was to move for eternity along the roads and seas of the world.

The real appeal for me was the idea of jetting across an expansive and diverse continent like South America. He crossed the Andes, met up with the Amazon River, and drank his mate in between long excursions on the open road.

What we had in common - our restlessness, our impassioned spirits, and a love for the open road.

Ernesto blazed these numerous trails with his friend Alberto Granado, but unsurprisingly, he met many people along the way with which to relate his impulses. While on my own excursions, I've often pondered the connective thread between all wandering souls, and though I think it's got to be more detailed and profound than his above description, I think Che is onto something.

What do we leave behind when we cross each frontier? Each moment seems split in two; melancholy for what was left behind and the excitement of entering a new land.

Are we that move the ones most lost or most in tune with the nomadic nature of man?

Jack Kerouac on Movement

[The following are excerpts from Jack's On The Road.]

We were all delighted, we all realized we were leaving confusion and nonsense behind and performing our one noble function of the time, move. (Part 2, Ch. 6)

This is word-jazz, a book that makes the classics list and calls for a straight-through reading session. This novel was more favorable to me when I read more pages in one sitting, because it has a flow, almost like reading Virginia Woolf for its realtime, stream of consciousness rhythm. Just as Jack rode stripes across the continent, he blazed through his own narrative, moving faster than his headlights.

Why think about that when all the golden land's ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you're alive to see? (Part 2, Ch. 6)

I admire Kerouac’s drive to find an honest and original form of expression, just like Van Gogh. For me, that’s what makes this book a classic.

What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? — it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies. (Part 2, Ch. 8 )

Reading this novel while on the World Traveler Intern, his descriptions like the one above made so much sense. I couldn't process the speed and activity of each day, but I kept leaning forward awaiting the next day. It was about a whirlwind, not the simple digestion of one experience.

They have worries, they're counting the miles, they're thinking about where to sleep tonight, how much money for gas, the weather, how they'll get there--and all the time they'll get there anyway, you see. (Part 3, Ch. 5)

Profound, Jack.

Our battered suitcases were were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life. (Part 3, Ch. 5)

Jack was impassioned by the constant change. I think my brain starts to trip around when I think of a stretch of road as symbolic of far more than the pavement ahead.

What's your road, man?--holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It's an anywhere road for anybody anyhow. (Part 4, Ch. 1)

Though Jack's antics and tendencies went against the accepted norm in America at the time, his passion to do so was very American of him, buzzing around the country "nutty with independence."

Behind us lay the whole of America and everything Dean and I had previously known about life, and life on the road. We had finally found the magic land at the end of the road and we never dreamed the extent of the magic. (Part 4, Ch. 5)

Any lasting thoughts from you on movement and the road? Are you a fan of movement for movement's sake, or are you the anti-Kerouac/Guevara? Does this method of living and traveling make little sense to you? Let's get conceptual here.